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20 Questions About Criminal Sexual Conduct in SC
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20 Questions About Criminal Sexual Conduct in SC

Being charged with criminal sexual conduct (or any crime for that matter) can be scary, particularly when you believe your sexual activity was consensual. Nonetheless, you need to understand what your accuser, the police and the prosecution believe that you did.

First, let’s start with a brief description of South Carolina's CSC laws.

Criminal Sexual Conduct, also known as CSC, involves “sexual battery.” There are 3 different degrees of CSC, and each of them have additional elements to them.

“Sexual battery” means intercourse, or any intrusion, however slight, of any part of a person’s body or of any object into the openings of another person’s body.

CSC, 1st degree is when a person engages in sexual battery with the victim plus one of the following:

  • Aggravated force is used to accomplish the sexual battery
  • The victim is also the victim of kidnapping, trafficking in persons, forcible confinement, robbery, extortion, burglary, housebreaking, or something similar
  • Without the victim’s consent, the victim is given a controlled or intoxicating substance that causes them to be mentally incapacitated or physically helpless

CSC, 2nd degree is when a person uses aggravated coercion to accomplish the sexual battery. “Aggravated coercion” means that the person threatened to use force or violence of a high and aggravated nature to overcome the victim.

CSC, 3rd degree is when a person engages in sexual battery with the victim and one of the following:

  • Force or coercion is used to accomplish the sexual battery in the absence of aggravating circumstances listed in S.C. Code Section 16-3-655(E)(2)(a).
  • The person knows that the victim is mentally defective, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless and aggravated force or aggravated coercion was not used to accomplish the sexual battery.

Common Questions About Criminal Sexual Conduct

If you’ve been charged with CSC, you probably have a hundred questions bouncing around in your brain. Chances are, they’re the same questions most other people have had. Here are answers to the questions my clients ask me most often about their CSC charges:

1. What are the charges for criminal sexual conduct?

When prosecutors bring charges against someone for CSC, they have three main options:

CSC, 1st degree is the most serious criminal sexual conduct charge. At the other end of the spectrum, a 3rd degree CSC charge is the least serious criminal sexual conduct charge.

2. How serious is CSC?

Criminal sexual conduct charges should be taken very seriously. They can show up on a background check just like any other criminal charge and can negatively affect your life in many ways. Your current job may be in jeopardy, future job possibilities can be limited, your ability to join the military may be compromised, and so on.

It's very important to contact an experienced attorney to help you deal with these charges and minimize the negative effects they can have on your life.

3. How can Criminal Sexual Conduct be proven?

CSC can be proven in a number of different ways using different types of evidence, including testimony of the victim, testimony of witnesses, photographs of any injury caused to the victim and video of the incident.

Whatever evidence the prosecution has against you, they must share that evidence with you and your attorney. So going into the courtroom, you’ll have a very good idea of what the prosecutor will say about what happened.

4. How much jail time could I get?

CSC convictions carry serious penalties which can include both jail time and fines:

Felony or Misdemeanor
1st degree Felony Up to 30 years in jail
2nd degree Felony Up to 20 years in jail
3rd degree Felony Up to 10 years in jail

5. Can CSC charges be dropped?

Yes, sometimes CSC charges can be dropped. Sometimes police make mistakes. Or the evidence may not be strong enough to secure a conviction. Your attorney can advise you on how likely getting the charges dropped in your case might be and how you and your attorney can help make it happen.

6. Do Criminal Sexual Conduct victims have to testify?

No. A victim cannot be forced to testify in order to press charges, but it can help. Sometimes other evidence is strong enough to allow the victim not to testify if doing so would be harmful to his or her mental state or if it is too traumatic to recount.

7. Can the victim drop CSC charges?

A victim can always choose not to be involved in prosecution. A victim can also voice a desire for the charges to be dropped. If the solicitor has already decided to indict, it's no longer solely up to the victim to decide to press charges. The State then has the final call on whether to dismiss the charges or continue prosecuting the case.

8. Is Criminal Sexual Conduct a felony?

Yes. No matter which degree of CSC you are charged with, it is ALWAYS a felony charge. That is why these charges should be taken very seriously!

9. Can CSC be a misdemeanor?

No. Criminal Sexual Conduct charges are never misdemeanors.

10. Is CSC of a child charged differently from regular CSC charges?

Unlike CSC of an adult, CSC of a child has its own criminal statute. The charge is called criminal sexual conduct with a minor. It is always a felony charge. There are 3 different degrees of CSC with a minor, just like CSC of an adult. Age of the child is one of the most important factors in determining which degree should be charged. The law about this charge can be found in Section 16-3-655.

11. Does a CSC charge have to be indicted?

Criminal sexual conduct charges are taken very seriously and in most cases they are indicted. “Indict” means to formally charge someone with a crime.

12. Is aggravated criminal sexual conduct a crime in SC?

Generally speaking, aggravating circumstances of a crime push what would be a less serious charge to a more serious charge. Aggravated CSC isn’t a crime in South Carolina law, but CSC charges do have aggravating provisions built into the law. There are 9 aggravating circumstances actually spelled out in the law. A few of them are: if someone is threatened into consenting to sexual conduct, if the victim’s resistance was overcome by force, if the crime was committed during a kidnapping, and if the crime was committed by a person who has a prior conviction for murder.

13. Does CSC have to be physical?

Yes. Criminal sexual conduct involves sexual battery, which requires some sort of penetration. This would require physical contact with the victim.

14. Is CSC a federal offense?

Federal law prohibits criminal sexual conduct; however, all 50 states have some sort of CSC laws, which means you're much more likely to be charged under state law than federal law.

15. Is Criminal Sexual Conduct the same as sexual harassment?

No. CSC goes beyond sexual harassment since it involves actual physical touching while harassment is usually verbal in nature.

16. Is CSC domestic violence?

No. Domestic violence charges involve causing or attempting to cause harm to a household member. This is a completely different charge with its own set of laws.

17. Is CSC considered a violent crime?

Most CSC charges are considered violent crimes. Specifically, Criminal Sexual Conduct, 1st degree and 2nd degree are both violent. Also, CSC with a minor charges in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degrees are all violent. Go here for more information on violent crimes.

18. Is CSC the same as molestation?

Yes. Molesting someone is the same as committing CSC on someone but only if the act involves penetration.

19. If I am convicted of CSC, will I go on the sex offender registry?

Convictions for CSC can negatively impact your life moving forward in many ways. One of those ways is the sex offender registry. If you are convicted of CSC it is very likely that you will be required to register. This is a big deal, so it is very important to seek the help of an experienced attorney as soon as possible.

20. What penalty does attempt to commit CSC carry?

Assault with intent to commit CSC carries the exact same penalty as if the CSC had actually happened.  So if you’re charged with Attempted Criminal Sexual Conduct in the 1st degree, the penalty is the same as if you had been charged with CSC in the 1st degree - up to 30 years in jail.

Get help with your Criminal Sexual Conduct charge

If you have been charged with CSC, consider contacting an attorney right away to help you decide the best ways to defend yourself. Call Lori Murray at 803-779-4472 to discuss your case.

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